So how did the art and expat community flourish in San Miguel de Allende? Well, I’ll tell you, because in my humble opinion it is absolutely fascinating—and as relevant now as ever.

It all began with Peruvian painter and left-wing activist Felipe Cossío del Pomar, plus some good, old-fashioned publicity. While in exile from Peru, Felipe founded art school Bella Artes in San Miguel in 1938. After World War II, American GIs flocked to the school when they realized their educational grants could be stretched much further in Mexico than they could in the US. Then in 1947, Life magazine penned a doozy. “GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time,” the article said. Following Life’s piece, the real boom began! The story prompted more than 6,000 American veterans to relocate to the city, wooed by the promise of living large on very little.